A Building Where Paintings Are Hung For Visitors To Observe And Purchase Is Called An Art Gallery; so it’s indicative that the logo of Paseo district locale The Project Box refers to it as a community art space instead. Proprietor Lisa Jean Allswede explains that the venue, which opened in May, isn’t a place to buy a painting and leave; it’s for people to experience.
“I like to use it as a creative space,” she said, “to have an open forum to teach people about the arts; use it as a vehicle to build community. I see it as a language – art is a language – so this is about exposing people to different ideas and themes through experiences.”
Previous exhibitions have asked visitors to sketch their own visualizations and interpretations of freedom on the walls and invited the community to participate in a potluck supper and recipe sharing – the show for January combines painting, photography, video and live musical performance in a group exhibition inspired by the culture and beauty found across a continent. You’re invited to take part in “Wanderlust: Nomadic Interpretations of Contemporary Africa” January 2-31.
The show is an extension of a project undertaken last year through the nonprofit Afrikanation Artists Organization. Curator Ebony Iman Dallas, an OKC resident and UCO grad with family in Somalia, explains that, “We had a project called the International Art Exchange that involved Somalian and Ethiopian artists [in] a celebration of art and culture. They participated over the theme of family rituals and traditions, and their art will be on display here along with their interviews,” which will be shown on video loops in the Project Box space. It’s not just paintings and photography; Dallas’ list of participants includes Ethiopian singer Meklit Hadero, international filmmaker Sosena Solomon, local guitarist Jeff Mims and many more, including herself.
She continues, “There’s music, there’s poetry, we’ll have the International Art Exchange artists as well as artists who live here in Oklahoma that have a connection to Africa – some have lived there, some have visited – I’ll have several pieces; it’s going to be a mixed show.”
The Project Box seems an ideal venue for a creative assembly like this (Dallas and Allswede met when they were both participants in the Oklahoma Arts Council’s Leadership Arts program) in part because “Wanderlust” is meant to be about more than only aesthetics.
“It’s educational,” Dallas smiles. “The point behind the International Art Exchange project is similar to the point behind having the community here experience these artists: it’s about interaction; it’s about creating a conversation. This is a chance to … hear from people who either have some kind of experience with Africa or some kind of connection that they want to share.
I’m most looking forward to seeing people’s reactions; being able to talk to them and having them be able to interact with the artists.”
“It’s, I think, something new in Oklahoma City. I find it exciting. And I love the idea of starting a conversation,” adds Allswede. “There’s a lot of things happening in our world globally, and art is the perfect vehicle to open the door for a conversation. I like that.”
Where to Share
The variety incorporated into “Wanderlust: Nomadic Interpretations of Contemporary Africa” is simultaneously a draw and a drawback: a total of 16 artists are participating, including musicians – but while the visual art will remain on display through the month of January, if you want to get the full experience, you should try to be present for the opening.
The Project Box is located at 3003 Paseo St in Oklahoma City, with the opening reception scheduled for 6-10 p.m. on Friday, January 2. There will also be a closing reception January 30; check theprojectboxokc.com for more details about the show and the space.
During the show, The Project Box will also be hosting an art supply donation drive to send the raw materials of creative expression – paint, ink, brushes, colored pencils, etc. – to Somalia. You have to like the idea of everyone who wants to create having the opportunity.